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Krill Oil – The Unbiased Scientific Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, and Important Facts

Krill Oil – The Unbiased Scientific Truth, Evidence-Based Health Benefits, and Important Facts

A Scientific Review of Krill Oil - Learn more about the potential benefits including research and other important information here!

krill oil

Krill oil is a mixture of fatty acids high in EPA and DHA (fish oil fatty acids). Image via Shutterstock

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What Is Krill Oil?

Krill is a shrimp-like crustacean that is found all over the world but primarily found off the coast of Antarctica. They thrive off of the algae found specifically in that region of the world.

When the fish consume the algae, they are able to directly consume alpha-linolenic acid, which is known as the parent omega-3 fatty acid.

Omega-3s are a class of essential fatty acids (EFAs), which means that the body does not produce them, so they must be consumed in the diet through food or supplementation.

What is more fascinating about Antarctic krill is that they are able to convert ALA to the active form of omega-3s, predominantly EPA and DHA.

Thus, these little crustaceans do the hard work for us and activate omegas-3s so we can enjoy the specific benefits these fatty acids provide, which will be discussed in this article below.

 

Krill vs. Fish Oil – Which is Better and Why?

Traditional fish oil is in the triglyceride form. This means that there is a head and 3 fatty acid tails as the structure. These fatty acid tails make up the EFAs mentioned above.

Omega-3 krill oil, on the other hand, is a phospholipid. This means that it is very similar in structure to the triglycerides, except that it is missing one fatty acid tail.

While it is intuition to think that “more is better” in terms of fatty acid tails, the phospholipid structure demonstrates improved absorption capacity of the essential fatty acids compared to traditional fish oil.

Because the krill molecule is smaller by nature, it has an easier time crossing the intestinal barrier to be deposited in our cells. Due to the enhanced absorption, the dose of krill oil is approximately ⅔ lower compared to traditional fish oil.

So, if you normally take 1000 mg of fish oil, you would only need 660 mg of krill oil. This lower dose is a benefit since there is less of a chance of “fish burps” and perhaps additional positive ingredients can be added depending on the product purchased.

Krill oil also has other beneficial constituents in its composition including choline and astaxanthin.

 

Omega-3 Krill Oil

Due to krill’s composition that includes several beneficial constituents, krill can have an array of benefits to the body.

As mentioned before, EPA and DHA are the primary essential fatty acids to humans. While they are both classified as EFAs, they have different physiological benefits.

Research has demonstrated that EPA is beneficial for general health, cardiovascular health, and mood support. DHA, on the other hand, is more important for the development of the brain and eyes, especially for fetuses and pregnant women.

However, DHA is not just for infants and pregnant mothers. Krill has specifically demonstrated improved cognitive benefits in the elderly population as well.

 

Phospholipids

As mentioned at the beginning of the article, phospholipids are similar in structure to triglycerides, sans one fatty acid tail.

Due to their chemical structure, they are also able to cross the blood-brain barrier and deposit into the membranes in brain tissue.

Several phospholipids are important to human health, however, the primary one in krill oil is phosphatidylcholine. One of the phosphatidylcholine’s mechanisms in the body is to improve cholesterol.

Research has demonstrated that krill oil can both improve HDL (good cholesterol) and decrease LDL (bad cholesterol) & triglycerides. Phosphatidylcholine may be responsible for those benefits.

 

Astaxanthin & Krill Oil for Joints

Astaxanthin is a pink-hue carotenoid that is primarily an antioxidant. Fun fact, when the krill consume the algae and create astaxanthin in their bodies, that is what gives the krill (and other fish like salmon) their pink color.

Antioxidants, which are naturally produced in the body, stabilize compounds known as free radicals or radical oxygen species that would normally attack the integrity of cell membranes and our DNA.

Through these damaging mechanisms, inflammation is increased. While acute or short-term inflammation is necessary to repair damaged tissue from wounds and/or exercise, chronic, or long-term inflammation can be detrimental to health.

Due to astaxanthin’s anti-inflammatory properties, krill has been shown to decrease biomarkers of inflammation, such as c-reactive protein. More practically, krill supplementation has been shown to improve joint comfort in old and young adults.

 

What is the Best Krill Oil?

As with most research, there is no clear optimal dose for krill oil. For the best krill oil reward, it is recommended to consume 1 – 3 g of krill oil per day. However, this dose is highly individualized and may depend on omega-3 status, diet, age, health status, etc.

While the actual weight of the oil is important, what is more critical is the amount of EPA and DHA in the product. It is recommended to consume at least > 500mg/day of EPA + DHA combined.

For interactions, the research has been exclusively performed in mice and rats. This data must be interpreted cautiously since human physiology does not translate directly from these other species.

Nonetheless, the data has been positive, showing improvements in fat metabolism in the liver and protective against inflammatory events from Ulcerative Colitis in the intestines.

 

FAQs

Q: Are fish oil and krill oil the same?

A: Krill oil has been shown to have better absorption compared to traditional fish oil at a lower dose.

It includes other components like phospholipids and astaxanthin that can provide benefits beyond traditional fish oil.

Q: What are the benefits of taking Krill Supplements?

A: Krill has been shown to have numerous benefits to the body including joint, cardiovascular, brain, antioxidant, eyes, and mood support.

Learn about the alleged benefits of the popular supplement Krill Oil Plus for heart health and inflammation. A purely natural oil with medicinal values.

Q: Is Krill oil good for joint health?

A: Yes, krill oil has been shown to improve joint health, comfort, and flexibility.

Q: What components make-up Omega-3s?

A: Omega-3s are a class of essential fatty acids (EFAs) which means that the body does not make them, so they must be consumed in the diet, either through food or supplementation.

The three main essential fatty acids are alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA).

  • ALA is the parent fatty acids, which is inactive in the body and must be converted to the active forms of EPA and DHA. ALA can be found in plant-based foods such as flax and chia and because the conversion rate from ALA to EPA & DHA is very low, the volume must be relatively higher.
  • Conversely, EPA & DHA can be directly consumed in animal-based foods in fatty fish such as salmon, mackerel, and tuna.

 

Takeaway:

It is clear that krill oil can be beneficial for many applications in human health. Krill oil is essentially a premium fish oil.

And while these benefits are numerous, krill oil does have a higher price point compared to traditional fish oil.

The economic cost can be a factor when purchasing products, so that may be a decision-making factor.

It is important to consistently consume the krill oil, as it may take a few weeks for omega-3 levels to increase.

Yet, krill oil has been shown to improve omega-3 levels in the blood to a greater degree compared to traditional fish oil. So the premium price may be worth the extra cost.

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Sam Kramer MS, RD, CSSGB, LDN, CISSN

Sam Kramer is a Registered Dietitian, Licensed Dietitian Nutritionist, Six Sigma Green Belt Certified, and Certified Sports Nutritionis...

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